Human Evolution

NASA's Ingenuity helicopter arrived on Mars on February 18, 2021.

Why Did NASA Test a Helicopter on Mars?

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The researchers identified 65 species that make noise when they play by looking at existing studies. They estimate there certainly could be more chuckling critters out there.

Dogs Do It, Birds Do It, and Dolphins Do It, Too. Here Are 65 Animals That Laugh, According to Science

Researchers suggest that laughter in the animal kingdom may help creatures let each other know when it's playtime, so that play fights don't escalate

A close-up of fossilized plaque on an ancient human tooth.

Neanderthals Ate Carb-Heavy Diets, Potentially Fueling Brain Growth

Study finds evidence that ancient humans and their Neanderthal cousins ate lots of starchy, carbohydrate-rich foods

Recent research unearthed a trove of remains at a site that first yielded a Neanderthal skull in 1939.

Remains of Nine Neanderthals Butchered by Hyenas Found in Italian Cave

The fossilized bones appear to belong to one woman, seven men and a young boy

“We think of fire often as this destructive tool,” says lead author Jessica Thompson. “That doesn’t have to be the case.”

Did Stone Age Humans Shape the African Landscape With Fire 85,000 Years Ago?

New research centered on Lake Malawi may provide the earliest evidence of people using flames to improve land productivity

A virtual reconstruction of the child’s remains found in Panga ya Saidi cave in Kenya

Scientists Discover Oldest Known Human Grave in Africa

The unearthing of a tiny child suggests Africa’s Stone Age humans sometimes practiced funerary rites and had symbolic thoughts about death

Researchers discovered 87 Neanderthal footprints, as well as a number of tracks left by prehistoric animals.

100,000-Year-Old Fossilized Footprints Track Neanderthals' Trip to Spanish Coast

Some of the imprints appear to have been left by a child "jumping irregularly as though dancing," researchers say

Scientists excavate bones at Bacho Kiro Cave in Bulgaria. Four modern human bones were recovered from this layer along with a rich stone tool assemblage, animal bones, bone tools and pendants.

Some of Europe's Oldest-Known Modern Humans Are Distantly Related to Native Americans

Genome sequencing shows some individuals share family ties with surprising populations, and all boast plenty of Neanderthal relatives

Ancient people brought the crystals to the rock shelter.

Crystals Found in Kalahari Desert Challenge Assumptions About Where in Africa Human Culture Arose

The 105,000-year-old items may have held religious meaning

Hunter-gatherers in what is now Russia likely viewed the wooden sculpture as an artwork imbued with ritual significance.

This Wooden Sculpture Is Twice as Old as Stonehenge and the Pyramids

New findings about the 12,500-year-old Shigir Idol have major implications for the study of prehistory

Some of the marks seen on the woman's skull predated her death, while others were likely left by natural forces following her burial.

Archaeologists Solve Mystery of 5,600-Year-Old Skull Found in Italian Cave

Natural forces moved a Stone Age woman's bones through the cavern over time

A hallmark of our cognitive abilities is to be able to calculate and respond to future probabilities. We will have to adapt to this pandemic reality, but adaptation is something that humans are famously good at.

Why This Pandemic Won't Be the Last

Smithsonian biological anthropologist Sabrina Sholts says Covid-19 illustrates that what makes us human also makes us more vulnerable to global contagions

A statue of Charles Darwin sits in the Natural History Museum in London. The scientist's book 'Descent of Man' was published in 1871.

How Darwin's 'Descent of Man' Holds Up 150 Years After Publication

Questions still swirl around the author’s theories about sexual selection and the evolution of minds and morals

Artist's rendering of a prehistoric human playing the ancient conch instrument

Hear the Musical Sounds of an 18,000-Year-Old Giant Conch

The shell was played for the first time in millennia after being rediscovered in the collections of a French museum

The researchers determined that a right-handed craftsperson created the markings in a single session.

120,000-Year-Old Cattle Bone Carvings May Be World's Oldest Surviving Symbols

Archaeologists found the bone fragment—engraved with six lines—at a Paleolithic meeting site in Israel

These five skulls, which range from an approximately 2.5-million-year-old Australopithecus africanus on the left to an approximately 4,800-year-old Homo sapiens on the right, show changes in the size of the braincase, slope of the face and shape of the brow ridges over just less than half of human evolutionary history.

An Evolutionary Timeline of Homo Sapiens

Scientists share the findings that helped them pinpoint key moments in the rise of our species

This image diagrams the difference between human and chimpanzee models of thumb muscles, which the researchers used to study the evolution of thumb dexterity.

How Dexterous Thumbs May Have Helped Shape Evolution Two Million Years Ago

Fossils and biochemical models show tool-wielding hominins used their hands like we do today

An Australian lungfish (Neoceratodus forsteri) at the Haus des Meeres in Vienna, Austria.

Australian Lungfish Has Biggest Genome Ever Sequenced

The air-breathing fish dethrones the Mexican axolotl for the title of largest known genome in the animal kingdom

A woman hugs her granddaughter. Some scientists believe child care from grandmothers influenced human evolution.

How Much Did Grandmothers Influence Human Evolution?

Scientists debate the evolutionary benefits of menopause

While fieldwork was postponed, scientists made discoveries studying fossil footprints, ancient apes, monkeys and hominins.

Ten New Things We Learned About Human Origins in 2020

Smithsonian’s archaeologist Ella Beaudoin and paleoanthropologist Briana Pobiner reveal some of the year’s best findings in human origins studies

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